Mobile World Congress: Samsung Swings At iPad With Android Tab

Samsung's second Galaxy Tab boasts a 10.1-inch display, Android 3.0 Honeycomb, and an 8 megapixel camera.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
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At a press conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab 10.1. This second-generation Android tablet from Samsung offers far more firepower than its predecessor and is likely to be a much better iPad competitor.

The 10.1-inch display has 1280 x 800 pixels. It is powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor and includes a massive 6860mAh battery. It has two cameras: an 8-megapixel main camera that has a flash and can capture 1080p HD video, and a 2-megapixel secondary camera for video chatting.

The tablet weights 599g, and measures 10.9mm at its thickest point. It does not have a 4:3 aspect ratio as the iPad does, but Samsung didn't explicitly say that the aspect ratio is 16:9, either. (Based on my brief hands-on, it's somewhere in between those two.)

Samsung wisely choose to go with Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb platform rather than Android 2.2 (as it did with the original Tab). Android 3.0 is properly optimized for the tablet form factor. Samsung has skipped creating any sort of custom user interface skins (such as it does with its Android smartphones).

Samsung goes out of its way to refer to the 10-inch Tab as a "smart media device." It has stereo speakers and packs in a number of sensors -- compass, accelerometer, gyroscope and proximity -- to make the Tab a better gaming device. It can also play back full 1080HD video content. It will come in two variations, one with 16GB of on-board storage, and one with 32GB. It uses Google's video chat software, which was developed for Android 3.0.

Connectivity is supplied via 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, and quad-band 850/900/1900/2100 HSPA+ at 21Mbps. That makes it compatible with AT&T's 3G network in the U.S., but not T-Mobile's. Samsung didn't say if it would make variants of the Tab 10.1 for other U.S. carriers, such as Sprint or Verizon Wireless. It will first be made available to Vodafone in Europe later this spring.

There are some notable omissions from the fact sheet. Samsung didn't say if the Tab supports DLNA, as its Android smartphones do, for sharing media with other DLNA devices (such as TVs). The device does not have an HDMI port for video sharing.

With the 10-inch screen, the Tab 10.1 is a more worthy iPad competitor that the 7-inch Tab was. It has better specs all around, though some might see the bigger screen size (and added bulk) as a negative. The 10-inch tablet space is looking very competitive at this point, with the iPad, TouchPad from HP, and Xoom from Motorola all fighting for the spotlight.

"Samsung continues to develop innovative products that contribute to the continued growth of the Android ecosystem," said Andy Rubin, Vice President of Engineering at Google.

One thing is for certain, the Tab 10.1 looks a lot better than the original Tab did. The back is made of a carbon fiber-like covering that looks and feels great. Samsung did a good job with branding and accents on all sides of the device to set it apart from the growing set of slates. The camera housing is well placed, and it feels good to hold and use.

The Android 3.0 Honeycomb user interface is speedy and has all the new elements that Google demonstrated a few weeks ago.

The biggest unknown, however, is price. Neither Samsung nor Vodafone hinted at what the Tab 10.1 might cost. The original 7-inch Tab sold for $600 unsubsidized and $400 subsidized (it has since been discounted). It will be hard to believe the Tab 10.1 selling for a penny under $600, and it wouldn't be surprising for it to have a $700 or $800 price tag. We'll see.

With a competitive 10-inch tablet field well under way, it will be interesting to watch how the Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets do when compared to the iPad.